October 6th's Spaghetti 100 Kids on Bikes charity ride brought out the best and the worst in the 100 or so entrants of the 62-mile dirt "ride." The best was raising money to help underprivileged kids with bikes and safety programs.
The worst occurred when the promoters dangled a "World Champion" (of Tallahassee) rainbow jersey for the first across the finish line. Suddenly a charity "ride" morphed into a full-on "race" with all the associated selfish and cutthroat tactics that could be mustered to possess the golden fleece.
Cycle Logic was well positioned because of it's reputation for "dominating the charity rides" and according to the ride promoter "turned a lot of local racers heads this weekend" with their brute strength and devastating team tactics.
Cycle-Logic racers Rob "Chicken Chucker" Robins, Mike "Dr. Pain" Robinson and Kerry "K-Dogg" Duggan formed a sleeper alliance with Bike Works mountain bike star Clint "The Rock" Gibbs, CX endurance master "Frisbee" Todd Leedy and newby Justin "Chase Everything That Moves" De Leo.
The alliance worked. Very well.
Once we hit the first hilly red dirt section, 100 starters quickly funneled down to 30 players after a silly crash that dammed things up briefly. Rob's video camera recorded a spectacular tumble mania and his own subsequent acrobatic hand stand save. No harm done but Rob, Mike, Clint and Justin were forced to stop and regroup.
Todd and I managed to escape the confusion, chased and sat on a strong player we called "Green Hat." He was frustrated we wouldn't work, but eventually understood we had trapped teammates. Soon the pack caught back on, almost immediately one of us attacked. When one was caught another would launch. Over and over for the next three hours the 6 of us kept it up.
There were dozens of hills and boggy areas where small group or solo attacks worked well at whittling down and tiring out most of our rivals. A few teams camped out at the back but instead of sandbagging (hard to draft on sand, mud or sandy hills) it turns out they were just pooped.
The pack eventually was down to about 8 players, not including the 6 of us. Our sleeper cell strategy was long exposed but there was little the locals could do about it.
Twelve miles to go. We were now backtracking hilly sections that were suddenly much longer and steeper.
Off the front! (went Dr. Pain)
To the front to block! (went the Gainesville combine)
Across the gap! (we allowed one rival teammate to bridge)
Another team was then forced to bridge up everybody.
Attack! (went Clint or Rob or me)
Over hill and over mud. A few more rivals faded off the back.
Keep the pressure on! Force the few strong riders to work even harder to keep us in check!
Our original plan was for either Mike or Rob takes the fleece. At the very least someone from Gainesville. Riding your guts out for someone else is very liberating and actually more fun because there is no pressure to win-just to ride hard and have fun.
Eventually I managed to bridge up to an FSU racer on a solo escape. Together we went hard up and over another oak canopy hill. Twisting, turning, up and down, we took 30 second pulls until the chase slowly vanished behind.
Five dedicated teammates politely but firmly swarmed to the front. Team passive/aggressive went to work. Nobody gets away-nobody makes us work. Smile when you want to stick your tongue at them.
Up front, FSU and I increase the gap even though we overshot two turns in the confusing maze of dirt side roads. Don't panic.
With 10 miles to go FSU cracked on a long dirt hill. I didn't see it coming. One minute we were partners in crime,
the next his legs got a lethal injection. I felt sad. Sorta. He might have out sprinted me at the end. Most do.
Ok, put head down and just ride home. Roll the biggest gear you can spin. Concentrate on breathing instead of
painful legs. Don't fall off bike. Repeat. Ultimate reward is getting off the damn bike. Oh, and the fleece.
Behind me Rob has deemed the gap was big enough to safely launch. Nobody can catch him. Another mile and he would have caught me. I would have welcomed it.
Totally shattered, the finish line vanished under the wheels. The pain stops and turns to euphoria. One or two minutes later Rob chucked his chicken across the line too. Another short gap and Mike rolled in for 5th. Could have got 3rd but the "finish" was an ambiguous zone of road graffiti. No matter. The game was well played. We are covered in red mud but grinning like 10 year-old boys.
That is the real Fleece!